Yesterday I dungeon mastered the start of a new campaign after a near total party kill last month. I used the same setting (advanced by about a year to reflect the previous failure), but my players wanted to try new characters. We also had a new member join us. This time I’m instituting a few new curves, all borrowed from other sources.
The first idea I noticed from Gabe over at Penny-Arcade. I simply drew the map of the campaign world onto the hex side of my battle mat.
There isn’t much detail because it represents knowledge owned by the characters. Since it’s early in the campaign, they have a general awareness of the geography, but not much more. In the top pic you can see the original map that I drew using Visio.
After over a year and a half of play, we’ve found the pipe-cleaner method for indicating marks, bloodied and similar conditions works best. This was validated yesterday. We’ve tried a few different kinds of office supply post-it type flags, and none have come close. Pipe-cleaner hoops slip on and off easily without having to lift the figure, and they’re easy for players to self manage. My biggest challenge is finding a store who sells them. The DM in my weekly game wound up hooking me up, since he has leftovers.
I really like to involve players with the creative aspect of the game, and yesterday I did two things to encourage this. At one point, the players decided to set an ambush for their pursuers. The warden (who was coincidentally the new player) rolled well on her nature check to find an optimal ambush location. I started drawing a fairly improvisational battle map with difficult terrain and concealing brush, rocks of varying heights, logs and water. Then I handed her the pens. Since it was their ambush, and she’d rolled so well, she’d earned the right to dictate its terms. It soon turned into a collaborative effort among the players, and I only gave them about as much time as it took for me to use the restroom.
Last but not least, we trialed a house rule add-on similar to what’s common indie games such as Primetime Adventures. I brought four Sacajawea gold coins to the table (equal to the number of players -1, though I would probably keep the number of coins at four for six players). Whenever a player did something Cool, like a fun role-play or tactic innovation, they got a coin. They could use those coins before any dice roll for a +2 bonus. Once a coin is used, it returns to the pool and can be awarded again. If all the coins are out, no more can be given until one is used; players may not pass coins among themselves. If coins are available, they can (and should) award coins to one another. Next session I plan to add a prohibition to adding more than one coin to any single dice roll.
The modern era of gaming is filled with great ideas and wise learnings, but the only way to take advantage is to learn, try, learn more and try again.